We love the images that Etchings 1.0 produces, but for some types of photos there were a few things that just didn’t feel right. Here is a sample image that Etchings 1.0 works very well on, but has a few of these odd effects.

Shuttle Launch, Etchings 1.0click to enlarge

Notice how the sky in the top right is segmented and feels almost posterized. Similarly, some of the etching lines in the lower left corner are distracting due to their abrupt ends.

Now have a look at the same image processed with Etchings 1.5. Much nicer! To achieve this look we needed to start from scratch and come up with a new way of etching. We ended up with a technique that is much more flexible and allows fine-grained control over the entire process. We can now adjust line thickness, colour, tapering, direction and density of the lines for each level of brightness.

Shuttle Launch, Etchings 1.5

We adjusted these attributes to smooth out the line transitions in the mid-tones of images to avoid a posterized appearance. We also added tapers to lines so that they don’t stop as abruptly. This eliminated a lot of artifacts in areas that had rapid brightness changes. The result is that transitions from shadows look smoother and have more depth, and photos of smooth surfaces such as glass, water, and everyday objects will have much a more natural look.

Here are some comparison shots of the top-right and bottom-left corners of our shuttle image where you can see these enhancements have changed the feel of the image significantly.

On the left, the gradient in the sky is broken into three separate intensities by Etchings 1.0, producing hard lines cutting across the sky that just aren’t there in the original image. On the right you can see the results of the new smooth tapers; this follows the original image much more closely and reduces the posterization effect considerably.

On the left, the billowing plumes of exhaust there are some rapid transitions between light and dark; this is almost completely gone on the right. Also, in Etchings 1.0, some subtle noise in the original image causes speckled patterns in the etching lines. (Click on the image to see a larger version.) While we haven’t totally eliminated this effect in 1.5, the lines look much more natural throughout this area.

As a result of our new etching technique we can also start to experiment with different line styles and engraving techniques. Here is an example that uses a circular line pattern instead of waves.


Pretty cool, huh? We plan on rolling out new line styles in Etchings 2.0, so stay tuned!